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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Daily Report: An Early Apple Computer for More Than $100,000

The astronomical run-up in the price of the original Apple-1 machines - made in 1976 and priced at $666.66 (about $2,700 in current dollars) - is a story of the economics of scarcity and techno-fetishism, magnified by the mystique surrounding Apple and its founders, as the company has become one of the largest, most profitable corporations in the world, Steve Lohr reports in The New York Times.

In November, an Apple-1, also commonly known as the Apple I, sold for $640,000 at an auction in Germany. That sale surpassed the previous record of $374,500 set only five months earlier at Sotheby's in New York. The next test of the Apple-1 market will come on Saturday, at the same auction house in Cologne, Germany, where the record sale took place in November.

Even the auctioneer, Uwe Breker, expressed some surprise at the price reached last fall. For this week's auction, the reserve price - the minimum sale price - is $116,000, and Mr. Breker conservatively estimated the likely range of $260,000 to $400,000. “But we will see,” he said.

The auction market for the vintage machines, experts say, is thin and uncertain. For example, a nonworking Apple-1 failed to attract its reserve price of just over $75,000 at an auction last year in London. The record-setting auctions last year were of working originals, as is the Apple-1 going under the gavel on Saturday.

The sky-high prices suggest irrational exuberance. But technology historians say there is a rational appeal to possessing an Apple-1. “It is Apple's creation story, the physical artifact that traces this incredible success to its origins,” said Dag Spicer, a senior curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.